On Jersey Number Retirements

The Red Wings announced yesterday that they will retire the #4 of Leonard “Red” Kelly prior to their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 1, 2019.

Kelly won four Stanley Cups as a defenseman with the Red Wings in the early 1950s, was the team’s captain later in the decade, and then was traded to the Maple Leafs during the 1959-60 season (as punishment for disclosing that he had played on a broken ankle, something Detroit general manager Jack Adams was keeping secret).  He switched to playing center with Toronto and won four more Stanley Cups.

After retiring in 1967, Kelly was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.  The Maple Leafs honored his number on October 4, 2006, and fully retired it on October 15, 2016, in a celebration of the team’s 100th anniversary.


Retiring Red Kelly’s number makes sense but I still can’t shake a cynical feeling about it.

It’s an honor that should have happened in the early 1990s.  The Red Wings retired Ted Lindsay‘s #7 and Alex Delvecchio‘s #10 in 1991, Terry Sawchuk’s #1 in 1994, and Sid Abel’s #12 in 1995.  Kelly would have fit perfectly into that group as the core of the team’s early 1950s Stanley Cup Championships.  That his number wasn’t raised to the rafters then seemed to show that it wouldn’t be.

Since then we’ve seen Steve Yzerman‘s #19 and Nicklas Lidstrom‘s #5 raised, with much pomp and circumstance leading up to the events.  The dates were announced before the start of the season and ticket packages were sold around them.

So to see Kelly’s number retired now, with the announcement tucked into a pregame press availability, gives me a bad vibe.  It feels to me like a ploy to get people to come down to a game between a bad team and a very good team.

That said, as I Tweeted last night, the timing makes more sense than the Wings usually give to jersey retirements.  Toronto is the perfect opponent to raise Kelly’s number against, while history shows the team preferring to do so against a lesser draw on a weeknight to boost their ticket sales.  So if there’s a reason to give the team the benefit of the doubt, it’s that.

Whatever the reason, a deserving number is going to the rafters, righting the wrong of it not having been up there already.


But if I’m talking about wrongs, I have to mention Larry Aurie.  The franchise’s first star player, Aurie led the Red Wings in their early days, including when the team was known as the Cougars and the Falcons.

Jack Adams thought enough of Aurie that his #6 was retired in 1939, when Aurie hung up his skates.  It was later brought back into circulation so that Aurie’s cousin, Cummy Burton, could wear it, then put back into retirement.

Gordie Howe‘s #9 later joined Aurie’s #6 as unavailable, but in old arenas like The Olympia, teams rarely raised numbers to the rafters.

That changed with the team’s move to Joe Louis Arena and Mike and Marian Ilitch buying the team from the Norris family.  Howe’s #9 was the first number given a banner.  Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuk, and Sid Abel would follow.  Aurie did not.

At some point, the team’s story became that the core of the 1950s Cup Championship teams were all Hall of Famers and that only those in the HHOF would get banners.  Aurie never made it to the Hall, so his number would be retired but not honored.

Then the 2000-01 NHL Guide and Record Book came out, with Aurie’s #6 no longer listed among the team’s retired numbers.  Suddenly it was not only not honored but not even retired at all.

Despite this seeming lost of status, #6 was not assigned between 2000 and 2010, when Mike Modano signed with Detroit.  Modano – unable to get his usual #9 due to it’s retirement for Howe – asked about #6.

“I wanted No. 6, but they told me about Larry Aurie,” said Modano, referring to Aurie, who played between 1927-39, and had his number retired by former Wings owner James Norris.

“I thought it would be easy to just flip 9 to 6,” Modano said. “I would have loved 6, but maybe 90.”

If the all-time leading American scorer can’t have the number, that sure sounds to me like it’s retired.

They may not have raised banners to celebrate that in the 1930s, but we do now, and it’s time for Aurie’s number to have that honor.


And then there’s Sergei Fedorov.

There was buzz over the summer that Fedorov’s #91 might be retired this season, something that didn’t come to happen.  Chris Ilitch commented on that when Kelly’s number retirement was announced.

“Obviously Sergei was an outstanding Red Wing. He was a big part of bringing three Stanley Cups to Detroit. He’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Ilitch answered. “The subject of number retirement, it’s an important subject, it deserves a lot of conversation, a lot of thought. We’re continuously evaluating that with our organization. Related to 91 and 40 (Henrik Zetterberg), let’s see what the future holds.”

It wasn’t what Ilitch said, though, that really explained where Fedorov stands with the organization.  That was Jim Devellano.

“There are other things that I’m not going to get into,” Devellano said. “Do you realize that he wanted out of the Red Wings (organization) on two occasions? Are you familiar with that? Did you know he turned the owners down on a 5-year, $50 million contract? Did you know he signed an offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes and we had to match with a $24 million signing bonus?”

What this makes clear is that this is an organization that holds grudges.

You buy a team, you get to run it how you want, and that means you don’t have to honor any players you don’t want to.  We’ve seen that with Aurie (for whatever reason) and we’ll see that with Fedorov.  We’ll probably see it with Pavel Datsyuk.

Hasek, Modano Among Hockey Hall Class of 2014

Former Detroit Red Wings Dominik Hasek and Mike Modano were part of the group named as the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 on Monday.

The pair join Peter Forsberg and Rob Blake as player inductees. Late coach Pat Burns was selected as a builder while referee Bill McCreary also got the nod.

Hasek won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings and played 735 total NHL games split between the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie six times in the 1990s with the Sabres and finished his career with a .922 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average.

Hasek notably retired twice, only to resume his career. After Detroit’s 2002 Stanley Cup, Hasek called it quits only to return to the Red Wings a season later. He retired again after his second Cup in 2008 but came back for two more seasons in Europe.

Modano was long the face of the Dallas Stars franchise, having been drafted by the Minnesota North Stars and playing twenty seasons with the organization. He won his lone Stanley Cup in 1999 over Hasek’s Sabres on a controversial goal by Brett Hull.

Modano completed his career in 2010-11 with one season playing for his hometown Red Wings. In 1499 career NHL games he had 561 goals and 813 assists for 1374 points, most all-time among Americans.

The Class of 2014 will be inducted on November 17.

On How to Get Daniel Alfredsson #11 and Other Jersey Numbers

I realize that most fans – most players, even – don’t care about sweater numbers a whole lot. I do, though, so I’ve been thinking about what hoops would need to be jumped through to get the Red Wings’ recent acquisitions assigned numbers that are familiar to them in Detroit.

Daniel Alfredsson is easy if Daniel Cleary ends up not returning, as his #11 suddenly becomes available. If Cleary does return, however, there are a couple options.

Alfredsson has always worn #11 professionally but he was forced to switch to #9 for the 1997 and 2004 All-Star Games and to #15 for the 1996 event. Of course, #9 isn’t going to be an option in Detroit but #15 could be. I’ve already advocated taking #15 from Riley Sheahan and assigning it to Anthony Mantha as it was his grandfather’s number, but Alfredsson will be done with it by the time Mantha might need it.

Alternately, we have a trio of switches that gets three players into “their” numbers. Cleary only wears #11 because it was what was assigned to him when he made the Detroit lineup as a tryout. The number he wore in juniors and at least once in the minors was #8. Justin Abdelkader currently wears #8 but, like Cleary, only because it was assigned to him. In fact, several years ago it was rumored that he requested to switch to the #89 he wore in high school but it never happened. So give Abdelkader his #89 and it opens up #8 for Cleary which opens up #11 for Alfredsson.

Do I expect it to go down that way? No, not really, I just like ways for players to have numbers that mean something to them rather than just randomly-assigned numbers.

Stephen Weiss is a little more of a problem. His #9 isn’t going to happen, nor is the #19 he wore during his rookie year. He wore both #12 and #14 with the Chicago Wolves but neither of those is available (Gustav Nyquist has said he has no intent to switch from #14 to the #89 he wore in college, which wouldn’t be possible if Abdelkader took it first anyway). Weiss wore #22 for Canada at the World Juniors but Jordin Tootoo won’t be giving that up (though he might end up being traded). Going the Mike Modano route and changing from #9 to #90 might not even be an option, as reportedly Tomas Tatar has requested to switch from #21 to #90.

I’ve got no answer for Weiss except maybe it’s time to find a new number. A bunch of numbers with #9 as one of the digits are open.

Speaking of people changing numbers, I haven’t seen anything confirming it but I fully expect Joakim Andersson to take the #18 abandoned by Ian White next season.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Predators – Game 1 – 4/11

I want to start off with the end of the game and Shea Weber‘s manhandling of Henrik Zetterberg, but I still can’t find the words for that.

It was just such a stupid play by a player who’s good enough not to need to do that. It was so blatant and has no place in the game, but #BecauseItsTheCup I don’t have any faith in the NHL to deliver an appropriate punishment.

Speaking of punishment… I had the FSD feed so I didn’t see Mike Babcock‘s in-game interview but I saw that he criticized the officiating, basically saying they were calling things just to get noticed by Gary Bettman, who was in the arena for Game One. Will he be fined for it? If so, TPL and I are already talking about a HockeyRodent-like fundraiser to cover the cost.

I just posted the question of whether or not a better-officiated game would have prevented Weber’s actions. I personally don’t think it would have, as we’ve seen many times that players aren’t afraid to take a penalty in the final seconds because it won’t actually hurt their team. In Weber’s case, if a penalty had been called it would have been at 20:00, with no time on the clock for the Wings to do anything with it. He wasn’t taking advantage of a poorly-officiated game, he would have done that anyway.

As for the rest of the game…

This could have gone Detroit’s way, so it’s disappointing that it didn’t. That said, they didn’t learn from what worked for them so they kind of deserved to lose.

Two of Nashville’s three goals were incredible luck that the Red Wings couldn’t duplicate. Those breaks happen, can’t do anything about it. That said, both of Detroit’s goals were scored by getting bodies around the net and knocking in a rebound, yet the team seemed afraid to throw the puck at the net and see what happened. They spent too much time looking for the perfect play. Unfortunately, that’s a common issue for the Wings.

Also unfortunate, the injury to Darren Helm in the first period. He caught a skate to his arm in what looked like a play very similar to what injured Mike Modano last season. He reportedly had surgery at Vanderbilt Medical Center, so if it is indeed like Modano, he’s out for the playoffs.

With Helm back out, it would appear that Gustav Nyquist will jump back into the Wings’ lineup. I have to imagine that Justin Abdelkader slides back up to third line center, with Cory Emmerton taking over centering the fourth line and Nyquist taking Emmerton’s spot on fourth-line wing. I wish the Wings could swap Emmerton for Chris Conner but they’ll want a natural center on that line so I don’t see that switch happening. I’m told that Conner did play center at Michigan Tech but I don’t think that’ll be enough.

If the Wings can get the bounces that Nashville got tonight in Game Two, or at least prevent the Predators from getting them, while still playing just as good of a game, they’re going to get a win. If the Wings can win Game Two, it becomes a five-game series with Detroit having home ice. Pressure is still on Nashville here but a win for the Wings tonight would have bought them a lot of breathing space that they don’t have now.

Modano Retires

Mike Modano announced via Facebook today that he will retire. A press conference for the official announcement is scheduled for Friday.

After a long summer of thinking about my future, I’ve come to the decision that it’s time to retire as a player from the NHL. There’s way too many people to thank here at this time and too much to say, so I have a press conference scheduled for early Friday afternoon. Check back Friday late afternoon for more. What a great ride it’s been!

Modano retires as the all-time leading American scorer, having played in eight All-Star Games, three Olympics, and a winning a Stanley Cup Championship in 1999 with the Dallas Stars.

Free Agent Preview 2011

We’ve got under four hours until the NHL’s 2011 free agency season kicks off, so I’m going to take a quick look at the Red Wings’ roster, where they stand with their own free agents, and who they might be looking at on the market.

Forwards
Four forwards who were with Detroit last season are set to become free agents.Mike Modano won’t be back with the Wings but he’s not ruling out playing another year somewhere. His departure seems to have been a mutual decision as the team doesn’t have room for him and he didn’t have a particularly fun year in his hometown.

Kris Draper wants to return but has been told he won’t be offered a contract immediately. If the team can replace him they will.

Patrick Eaves is supposedly close to a deal to stay in Detroit but little is known about that. Reportedly, his concern is more about playing time than money.

Drew Miller has an offer on the table from the Wings but wants to test the open market. Like Eaves, he supposedly is looking for a place where he won’t have to worry about being a healthy scratch on a nightly basis.

Defensemen
The Red Wings kept Jonathan Ericsson in the fold, signing him to a (some might say ridiculous) three-year, $9.75 million deal last night. I don’t agree with the money but it gives Detroit six defensemen signed to NHL contracts for next season.

Detroit will look to replace the retired Brian Rafalski via free agency but their options are becoming limited. Christian Ehrhoff signed with Buffalo yesterday and James Wisniewski – long believed to be the Red Wings top target – seems to be set to sign a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tomas Kaberle is available as a third option from the top-tier talent but the Wings may have to look for a cheaper, less-talented player to round out their blueline corps. The name most mentioned to that extent is Ed Jovanovski.

If the Wings are looking to go cheap and roll the dice on defense, I’ve got a feeling about Sheldon Souray. Assuming a low contract, he’s the kind of low-risk, high reward guy Ken Holland likes to go after.

Of the team’s own free agents, neighter Ruslan Salei nor Derek Meech will be offered deals.

Goaltenders
Like Kris Draper, Chris Osgood won’t know if he’ll be back until the Red Wings are done shopping elsewhere. After injuries the last two seasons, the team is worried about Osgood’s health. With a relative glut of goalies on the market, he could be easily replaced. Former Osgood backup Ty Conklin is a possibility, among many others.

Joey MacDonald will not return to the Detroit organization. He’s looking for a one-way deal in the NHL or he’ll head to Russia. The Wings wanted him on a two-way deal so he could continue mentoring Thomas McCollum in Grand Rapids and be called on in Detroit if needed.

Red Wings Complete Comeback, Force Game Seven with 3-1 Win over Sharks

The Detroit Red Wings became just the eighth team in NHL history to rally from down 3-0 in a series and force Game Seven, defeating the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in Game Six Tuesday night.

The teams will meet in the deciding game of their Western Conference Semifinal matchup on Thursday night.

With their season on the line for the third consecutive game, the Red Wings dominated early but were unable to beat Sharks goalie Antti Niemi. Detroit outshot San Jose 32-13 through the first two period but the game was still scoreless heading into the third.

Logan Couture beat Jimmy Howard to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 3:54 of the closing period. After the Red Wings failed to clear their zone, Dany Heatley put a shot on net that Howard knocked aside. Couture swatted the rebound between Howard’s pads and it just barely crossed the goal line.

Henrik Zetterberg tied things up with 9:22 left in the period, tipping a Niklas Kronwall shot high over Niemi and into the top of the net.

Just 1:54 later, Valtteri Filppula took a feed from from Pavel Datsyuk at the top of the crease and tipped the puck past Niemi to put the Red Wings in front with 7:28 to play.

After Detroit killed a late penalty, Darren Helm added an empty net goal to finish off the game’s scoring and ensure that the series would return to San Jose.

Niemi finished the night with 42 saves on 44 shots. Howard made 24 saves on 25 chances.

Neither team scored a power play goal. Detroit had six chances with the extra attacker to San Jose’s four.


The Red Wings were without Johan Franzen for the game, out with a sore ankle that was aggravated in Game Five after a hit by Joe Thornton. Mike Modano replaced him in the lineup. Jiri Hudler was also swapped in for Kris Draper, while Jakub Kindl remained a healthy scratch on defense… The Sharks were without Ryane Clowe, who did not make the trip to Detroit. Ben Eager played in his place.

Pregame Notes: Sharks @ Red Wings – Game Six

Big lineup changes for both teams as the Red Wings and Sharks meet for Game Six tonight.

Johan Franzen will be out for Detroit, having tweaked his already-sore ankle on a hit by Joe Thornton in Game Five. Franzen did not play in the third period on Sunday so this isn’t much of a surprise. He’ll be replaced by Mike Modano, who also took over for Franzen in Game Four of the opening round.

San Jose, meanwhile, will be without Ryane Clowe. Clowe didn’t make the trip to Detroit with the rest of the team. No word on exactly what’s wrong with him, there are some reports that he’s got the flu but there’s also a rumor that he was hurt when Niklas Kronwall hit him last game.

Keys to the game are similar for each team, as they have been all series. Early goals, strong goaltending, try to stay out of the penalty box.

In all likelihood, this is gonna be another close one. No reason to expect otherwise after five one-goal games.

Game time is 8:00. TV is FSD locally and Versus nationally.

Red Wings Rally to Force Game Six Against Sharks

Tomas Holmstrom capped a Red Wings’ comeback with 6:08 remaining in the third period Sunday night, deflecting a Nicklas Lidstrom shot to give Detroit a 4-3 lead over the San Jose Sharks.

The Sharks had led the game, 3-1, just a minute into the third period before the Red Wings scored three consecutive goals to rally for the win. Detroit has now won two games in a row while facing elimination.

Devin Setoguchi started the game’s scoring with 2:42 remaining in the first period, deflecting a Dan Boyle shot from the blue line past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard after a faceoff win by Joe Thornton in the Red Wings’ zone.

Joe Pavelski made it 2-0 with 4:28 left in the second tipping the puck past Howard from the top of the crease on a two-on-one with Ryane Clowe.

Just 53 seconds later, Niklas Kronwall responded for Detroit, snapping a shot from the right faceoff circle over Niemi off a feed from Pavel Datsyuk, getting the Red Wings on the board.

Logan Couture restored San Jose’s two-goal lead 54 seconds into the third period, skating in alone and backhanding a shot under Howard.

Detroit’s rally began with an unlikely source at 3:43 of the third. Just after the expiration of a power play, Jonathan Ericsson jumped into the slot and snapped a loose puck past Niemi to make it 3-2.

Danny Cleary jammed a puck home from the side of the net at 5:29 to tie things up.

Datsyuk started the play on the game-winner, spinning in the left circle to protect the puck before getting it out to Lidstrom up high. Lidstrom’s blast was tipped past Niemi by Holmstrom from right in front of the net, giving the Red Wings their first lead of the game.

Howard stopped 39 of the 42 shots he faced in keeping the Red Wings in it early and holding the lead late. Niemi made 18 saves on 22 shots for the Sharks.

Neither team scored a power play goal. Detroit had two tries with the extra attacker and San Jose had four.

Game Six will be at 8:00 PM on Tuesday from Joe Louis Arena.


Detroit’s healthy scratches were Mike Modano, Jiri Hudler and Jakub Kindl… Bothered by a sore ankle, Johan Franzen played only 9:19 and did not see the ice after the midway point of the game.

Helm’s Late Goal Keeps Red Wings Alive Against Sharks

Darren Helm scored with 1:27 remaining in regulation Friday night, giving the Detroit Red Wings a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks and forcing a Game Five in their Western Conference Semifinal series.

The Sharks lead the series, 3-1, and could have finished the Red Wings off in Game Four.

After a faceoff in the San Jose end, Brian Rafalski held the puck in and fired a shot on goal from the right point. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi made the stop but the rebound came out to Patrick Eaves in the right faceoff circle, who pushed it across to Helm in the left circle for a wrister past Niemi.

The tally made up for a first-period turnover by Helm, leading to San Jose’s first goal and the start of a comeback after Detroit took a 3-0 lead in the first period.

With 1:44 left in the first, just 15 seconds after the Red Wings extended their early lead to 3-0, Helm turned the puck over to Ryane Clowe at the Detroit blue line. Clowe carried the puck down low along the left wing boards and threw it on net. Logan Couture got a piece of it on the way through and it trickled through Jimmy Howard‘s pads to make it 3-1.

Dan Boyle pulled the Sharks to within a single goal with 6:16 remaining in the second, slipping past Jiri Hudler into the right circle all alone, then taking a pass from Kyle Wellwood and snapping a shot past Howard.

Just 1:14 into the third, Dany Heatley beat Howard from the top of the crease off a pass from Clowe to complete the comeback, but the Sharks would be unable to pull ahead.

Todd Bertuzzi had opened the game’s scoring at 6:22 of the first. Bertuzzi carried the puck into the San Jose zone and spun around Heatley at the top of the left circle before backhanding a shot that deflected and fluttered past Niemi.

Nicklas Lidstrom made it 2-0 with 8:51 left in the period, blasting the rebound of a Danny Cleary shot by Niemi.

Lidstrom’s second of the night made it 3-0 with 1:59 left in the opening frame. In the closing seconds of a Detroit power play, Henrik Zetterberg pulled the puck out of a scramble around the front of the net and brought it to the left circle. He sent a high pass out to Lidstrom in the right circle, who knocked it down off his knee and then whacked a shot out of mid-air on Niemi. The puck bounced off the ice and skipped past the San Jose goalie.

Lidstrom’s second was the lone power play goal of the night. Detroit had four tries with the extra attacker while San Jose had two.

Niemi made 36 saves on 40 shots on the night. Howard stopped 25 of 28 shots.

The two teams will meet in San Jose for Game Five on Sunday.


Mike Modano, Drew Miller and Jakub Kindl were the healthy scratches for the Red Wings.